Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, are being removed from England’s Covid-19 travel red list, meaning returning Britons no longer have to quarantine when they come home.
Mauritius is also being taken off the list, in a move that could open the way for tourists to go to those two countries after the government allows international travel again.
Portugal’s Algarve region in particular is a popular hotspot destination for UK holidaymakers, with about 1.2 million visitors annually in the years before the pandemic.
After Friday, anyone coming from those two countries will be required to self-isolate for ten days on arrival to the UK at home and take Covid-19 tests at home.
The flight and maritime ban from Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) are also being removed.
The government says this comes after “evidence that shows the risk of importing a variant of concern from these destinations has reduced”.
A statement added: “Portugal has put steps in place to mitigate the risk from its links with countries where variants have become a concern, and now has genomic surveillance in place.”
Meanwhile, Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia and Qatar are being added to the red list from Friday.
Anyone who is not a British or Irish citizen, or does not have residence rights (including long-term visa holders), who has departed from or transited through these countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England.
Commercial and private planes travelling to the UK from Oman, Ethiopia and Qatar will also be banned from Friday, which the government says is “to reduce the risk of importing variants of concern”.
Qatar is a significant hub for east-west travel between destinations in Asia and the UK.
The ban does not affect cargo and freight without passengers.
The changes increase the number of countries on the red list to 35. Any British or Irish nationals or anyone with the right of residence must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days if they arrive from any of those countries and cannot use the Test to Release scheme.
The government has not said when international travel from the UK will be allowed again, but has said it could be as early as 17 May, depending on a series of factors it is monitoring.
The Global Travel Taskforce will report on 12 April with recommendations which may set the timetable for a return to international travel, but much will depend on what experts perceive as the level of risk from imported cases and variants.
Travel within England is set to begin again on April 12, when people will be able to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, that does not have any shared spaces.
People living in Wales will be able to stay in accommodation like a holiday cottage from March 27, so long as they do not cross borders into any of the other nations.
But domestic breaks in Scotland will not return in time for the April bank holiday.
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